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Handling Disappointments

Over the years I’ve had my share of experiences in which I was faced with disappointment. One of my earliest ones was that of not being able to get into the gym to play basketball. That may not sound like a big disappointment but when you’re in junior high and basketball is your life it can hit you rather hard. As the years progressed the disappointments increased in intensity: the breakup of my first relationship, the miscarriage of two babies, a cancer diagnosis for my wife and the death of a spouse.

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that the level of your mental health can be measured by how you handle the disappointments of life. For many people the coronavirus has created a list of disappointments, anywhere from a host of little ones to some of major proportions. Some disappointments take place in the realm of your body, others in the space of your mind, and some even tunnel into the recesses of your spirit.

A few years back I came upon a story that has helped me to refocus many of my disappointments large and small. It comes from a book entitled How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue and Ron Bonn. I share it with you in hopes that you might find it helpful as well.

Imagine that you and your family have planned for years for a wonderful trip to France. You’ve studied the maps and the brochures; you’ve even learned a little of the language. You know all about driving through Normandy and you’ve packed your swimsuits for the Riviera; you’re ready for Paris and the Seine and hot croissants at sidewalk cafes.

At last you and your family board the airplane and wing out across the Atlantic. The plane touches down. The attendant opens the cabin door…

And you’re in Greenland.

What might you feel, looking out that door across an icy, alien tundra? There would be, first, a feeling of total disorientation, then, perhaps, a crushing sense of loss. Yet a moment’s thought will probably suggest one additional idea to you: Even Greenland has possibilities.

Remember, when a disappointment arrives: Even Greenland has possibilities.

Dr. John Reitz


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